By: Thandiwe Kubere

With evident change- Lesotho is evolving towards becoming a better country for her people. And as she soars to greater lengths, it is essential to have change even in the sports field.  It has been discovered that sports and talents, which have potential of improving the country’s current economic state, go beyond the eminent soccer, and other balling games the country revels over.

In search of other hidden treasures, the Paper came across Khojane Seqhobane-a proud Mosotho and coach, whose plan is succeeded by his accomplishments in the world of hockey. In his journey, he encountered a number of people who asked why he chooses to invest his energy in a sport which is rather novel in our country.  “The truth is in my story. Because I learnt the hard way that just because you are not talented in “the popular sports,” it does not mean that you are untalented in other sports, like hockey”, he said.

Sharing his story, he explained his journey with this relatively new sport in Lesotho started in 2008 at a school called Harriston in Harrismith, where he played just because the sport was compulsory. At the time, he had temporarily moved to South Africa and like many Basotho youth, he was anxious at first, but eventually adapted.

It took him a couple of years to discover his love for the sport, and, an eye-opening experience was when he was the only player selected from his school, to go on hockey trials for the provincial team in the Northern Free State.

“I was very surprised to find out that I was good enough to go on tour in a coastal province. The tour to Maritzburg College, in Pietermaritzburg, was quite an unforgettable learning experience in terms of realising that hockey opens one up to schools with so much prestige; all the friendships I made with people from different walks of life, and all the new skills I had acquired from coaching sessions and other remarkable players I came across on and off the field”, he said.

He had yet another experience in Grade 11, where he went on tour to KwaZulu-Natal at an esteemed school called Kearsney College. He realized his talent and it inspired him to push to greater limits. He enlightened this was to see how far the sport could actually take him before his high school days came to an end. “I used the new skills and gameplay tactics I acquired from the tour that year. The rest of that year went on to yield results as I went on to win 2 merit certificates, “senior hockey player of the year” trophy and a “Sportsman of the year” award in 2017.

“When 2018 approached, I knew I had to end my last year of hockey with a bang and so I was motivated to push myself by practicing as much as I could  and even joined a hockey school called “ECHS”, in Bloemfontein.” He explained the school was owned by one of his “heroes”, whose name is Elsie Coetser- who helped in shaping his career and her passion is for students’ talent.

 “It was after meeting this remarkable woman on a random Friday afternoon that my life changed forever as she realised my potential at practice and asked me “Why I wasn’t going to The Netherlands with her?” This made me fully understand how serious the sport was and how fast it was growing. After a lot of help from family and friends I managed to get enough money to go on tour in The Netherlands and Germany, and, I can safely say that it was definitely one of the most memorable, life changing and mind opening experiences I’ve ever had”, he remarked.

After touring in The Netherlands and Germany, he came back with more knowledge and insight regarding the sport and how it can be integrated as part of the community. “I had an epiphany which was to try and provide more children from my home country with such opportunities, especially because I had already communicated with people like Elsie Coetser, which she said she would be more than willing to help because she really believes in my initiative and is also looking forward to taking her first student from Lesotho as they have a Netherlands tour every year”, he said.

Being the president of Lesotho’s first ever hockey club named Liphokojoe HC (hockey club), he managed to launch a Hockey Integration Program (HIP) which aims at including hockey as part of the school curriculum in Lesotho. He believes Lesotho can be a powerhouse of hockey in Africa considering how it is growing globally. Such positivity stems from the skills, knowledge and experience he has acquired, and his will to share with others.

It is through the HIP program that he acquired a coaching spot at Machabeng international college, Lesotho High School, and Maseru Private Academy. He has witnessed positive responses coming from students, especially younger ones. “The enthusiasm amongst my students is what really motivates me to pass the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired to them. I honestly get motivated by how much they have grown to love and enjoy the sport, and this is part of what makes me believe that with the right resources I can grow my program to a scale whereby I can reach more students across not only in Maseru, but all the districts.  This will further help in building a strong team that I envision for Lesotho. He declared his journey was made possible by his very supportive and loving mother Dr Ketsia Matete.

The HIP program is focused on integrating hockey into the education sector using Liphokojoe HC’s programme, which includes introduction to hockey, conditioning/training to hockey both physically and mentally and takes it up the notch to a competitive side of hockey. The club is also currently looking forward to taking its first team of 5-7 students to mini tournament in Harrismith around December this year and could use any and all the help it can get.

“What made me hopeful about Lesotho and my Hockey Integration Program, is how many hockey teams I’ve seen coming out of Africa in the past 5 years apart from South Africa. These include Zimbabwe, Uganda, Namibia and more, which puts us in the right path with my initiative”, he said. One of the significant lessons he has attained, is the magnitude of Hockey’s impact on the country’s tourism and economy, as well as its potential to create jobs, considering how much it is invested in by other countries.

The benefits of Hockey are physical fitness, which is especially important in adolescence. It also helps with mental health and wellbeing amongst the youth because the stress that comes from school is a topic that’s been relatively overlooked until recently. He believes this is the reason one may find quite a substantial percentage of the youth either depressed or suffering in other mental health issues which may lead to behaviour that’s not beneficial or impacting the community positively.

 “I learnt that hockey really helps decrease the pressures that arises from schools and society as it gives children the opportunity to alleviate the stresses and such. Hockey definitely helps open up minds and with the smooth flow of oxygen to the brain, like any other sport or exercise which is needed for optimal performance in daily life”.

A number of sporting challenges in the country come from certain sports being made priorities and getting privilege over the others whereas they equally have potential. Moreover, some activities remain novel and hinders enough opportunities to explore. Seqhobane explains his encounter became different because he got to study in South Africa, which got him exposure to the magnitude of how integrated hockey already was. This is because most of the players grew up already playing the sport from grade 1, so realizing he could play with them competitively gave him a bit of confidence. “Moreover, was the fact that I was chosen to represent the province of the country I wasn’t born in gave me more confidence”, he revealed.

It is also important to note that everyone is welcome to join the team and become part of the new and different sport in Lesotho. They can engage on YouTube or send a message on Instagram, or via the Liphokojoe HC Sports Page on Facebook. “At the end of the day, one would not know how good they are in something unless they actually take the leap of faith and try it out.”